Skip to comments.MacArthurís Millennial Manifesto: Of Jewish Evangelism
Posted on 08/10/2007 10:09:44 AM PDT by topcat54
MacArthurs Millennial ManifestoChapter 8: Of Jewish Evangelism
[Part of a mutipart series by Dr., Waldron wherein he challenges John MacArthurs thesis that every good Calvinist ought to be premillennial. Dr. Waldron is a Reformed Baptist and amillennial in his eschatology, and he is pastor of the Heritage Baptist Church of Owensboro, Kentucky]
MacArthur is convinced that the eschatology has enormously practical implications. It is on one of these implications that he closes. He believes that only his eschatology lays a wonderful foundation for Jewish evangelism. He is certain that Amillennialism undermines it. Here are some of the closing words of his message:
Another effect of replacement theology is the damage that it does to Jewish evangelism. Heres a little scenario: You are talking to a Jew. You say, Jesus is the Messiah. Really, where is the kingdom? Oh, its here! Oh, it is? Well, why are we being killed all the time? Why are we being persecuted and why dont we have the land that was promised to us? And why dont wewhy isnt the Messiah reigning in Jerusalem, and why isnt the peace and joy and gladness dominating the world, and why isnt the desert blooming and ? Oh, no, you dont understand. All thats not going to happen. You see, the problem is youre not Gods people any more. We are. Oh! I see, but this is the kingdom, and Jews are being killed and hated, and Jerusalem is under siege. This is the kingdom? If this is the kingdom, Jesus is not the Messiah. Cant be. Its ludicrous. No matter how many wonderful Jewish-Christian relationships we try to have with rabbis, this is a huge bone in the throat. Why cant Jesus be the Messiah? Because this isnt the kingdom. Unless you can say to a Jew God will keep every single promise He made to you, and Jesus will fulfill every single promise, and that is why there are still Jews in the world, and that is why you are in the land and God is preparing for a great day of salvation in Israel; and Jesus is your Messiah. But look at Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53 and Zechariah 12:10 and understand that He had to come and die to ratify the New Covenant before He could forgive your sin, and the kingdom is coming. THAT you got a chance to communicate. The rest doesnt make sense.
MacArthur is right to be concerned about Jewish evangelism. We are all in favor of it. May God wonderfully bless our brothers and his ministrys efforts! Nevertheless, I think there are numerous difficulties with the way MacArthur uses Jewish evangelism polemically against Amillennialism in this passage.
First, MacArthur attributes to Amillennialists an over-realized eschatology. MacArthur reasons: You are talking to a Jew. You say, Jesus is the Messiah. Really, where is the kingdom? Oh, its here! Oh, it is? Well, why are we being killed all the time? Why are we being persecuted and why dont we have the land that was promised to us?
Here is my response. I would not say these words to a persecuted Jew. Neither would I say them to a persecuted Christian. Here I want to remind the reader of the chapter I entitled, Not Your Fathers Amillennialism. I will hereby admit that it may be that some older Amillennialists may have been guilty of associating the promised kingdom almost exclusively with the church age and not with the coming age. I and most of my contemporary Amillenialists, however, are committed to the idea of the already and not yet as it has been developed in recent years by Evangelical theologians. This means that we would never claim that an earth in which Christians are still being persecuted and killed is Gods consummate kingdom. It is the inaugural phase of the kingdom. In that inaugural phase of the kingdom Jesus taught that sacrifice and persecution would be facts of life. Remember the parables of the tares, the treasure hidden in the field, and the pearl of great price (Matt. 13:24-30, 36-46).
Second, MacArthur assumes that Amillennialists believe that the Jews have forfeited all Gods promises to them as a nation. MacArthur says: All thats not going to happen. You see, the problem is youre not Gods people any more. We are.
I have argued extensively that this is a complete misunderstanding of contemporary Amillennialism. Our position is not that God will not fulfill His promises to the Jews. It is that He is fulfilling those promises right now to those Jews who embrace the Savior-Messiah. It is also that a glorious kingdom awaits such Jews in the age to come. This kingdom will not be less than what the Jews were promised. It will be infinitely more than the types and shadows of the Old Testament could convey. The meek will not simply inherit the land. They will inherit the earth (Matt. 5:5; Eph. 6:1-3). A New Jerusalem much better than the old one will come down out of heaven from God.
Third, MacArthur assumes that Amillennialist have to admit that God does not keep His promises to the Jews. He reasons: Unless you can say to a Jew God will keep every single promise He made to you, and Jesus will fulfill every single promise, and that is why there are still Jews in the world, and that is why you are in the land and God is preparing for a great day of salvation in Israel; and Jesus is your Messiah.
In a sense I have already responded to this reasoning, but something remains to be said. Let me, therefore, say it! I can to the believing Jew or to the Jew on condition of his believing that God will fulfill every promise He made to them. I have said so again and again in these chapters.
But I cant say any such thing to unbelieving Jews. Furthermore, the Jews present occupation of their ancient land in itself can be no fulfillment of Scriptures promised return of Israel to the land. The promised return to the land is the return of a repentant people. The earliest promise which Dispensationalists usually quote in this regard is Deuteronomy 30:1-6. It clearly says that the promised return is the return of a repentant people. Quite clearly the present Jewish state persecutes Christians, and the mass of its inhabitants do not recognize Jesus as Messiah. It cannot, therefore, be the promised return to the land.
Deuteronomy 30:1 So it shall be when all of these things have come upon you, the blessing and the curse which I have set before you, and you call them to mind in all nations where the LORD your God has banished you, 2 and you return to the LORD your God and obey Him with all your heart and soul according to all that I command you today, you and your sons, 3 then the LORD your God will restore you from captivity, and have compassion on you, and will gather you again from all the peoples where the LORD your God has scattered you. 4 If your outcasts are at the ends of the earth, from there the LORD your God will gather you, and from there He will bring you back. 5 The LORD your God will bring you into the land which your fathers possessed, and you shall possess it; and He will prosper you and multiply you more than your fathers. 6 Moreover the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, so that you may live.
Cf. also Jeremiah 31:1-34; 32:40-44. The last passage asserts that restoration to the land and regeneration are coincident.
40 I will make an everlasting covenant with them that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; and I will put the fear of Me in their hearts so that they will not turn away from Me. 41 I will rejoice over them to do them good and will faithfully plant them in this land with all My heart and with all My soul. 42 For thus says the LORD, Just as I brought all this great disaster on this people, so I am going to bring on them all the good that I am promising them. 43 Fields will be bought in this land of which you say, It is a desolation, without man or beast; it is given into the hand of the Chaldeans. 44 Men will buy fields for money, sign and seal deeds, and call in witnesses in the land of Benjamin, in the environs of Jerusalem, in the cities of Judah, in the cities of the hill country, in the cities of the lowland and in the cities of the Negev; for I will restore their fortunes, declares the LORD."
I do agree with MacArthur on one point. The Jews will continue to exist as a distinct people group. Romans 11 on my view assumes this. At a number of points I have argued that the nucleus of the Church is the elect Jewish remnant. Nevertheless, this does not mean that the State of Israel is the commencement of the promised return.
What really gets in the way of Jewish evangelism is communicating to the Jew that they have some sort of inside track with God regardless of their spiritual condition. Saying to them that the land belongs to them regardless of their spiritual condition seems to me to communicate to them the wrong thing. Saying to them that the present State of Israel in spite of their ongoing rejection of the Messiah has some sort of divine right to the land also communicates the idea that they have some sort of inside track on Gods blessings. No matter how much I may support the State of Israel for moral, political, and pragmatic reasons, this is completely different from supporting them for theological or prophetic reasons. To communicate that they have some sort of theological or prophetic claim on the land and Gods blessings in their impenitent and Christ-rejecting condition is not good for their souls. This, I think,and not Amillennialismis the true danger to Jewish evangelism.
"For these are the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled." (Luke 21:22)
If I had to choose, I would stick with MacArthur.
I think a serious Jew would more likely answer similar to, “If I knew God I’d be Him.”
As I recall, MacArthur was severely criticized by many of his fellow dispensationalist who objected to his views on the "lordship salvation" controversy, while his fellow Calvinists, mostly non-dispensationalists, applauded his efforts. His lack of consistency has left him as a bit of a man without a theological country.